Tehran Regime Mirrored in Football and Hijabs

 

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Unless you are on holiday on another planet, you know that the World Cup is being played out in Brazil: 32 national football teams converged in Brazil, followed by billions of fans from all over the globe.

Football? Prisoners – Yes. Women – No

The World Cup is truly a world-uniting experience: Just to put things in proportion, nearly half of the planet’s population, 3.2 billion people, watched the last World Cup final. No matter what is the local time, work status, school status – people are watching it at home or in bars, restaurants and coffee shops – even prisoners in Guantanamo jail watch it.

Everyone is watching except for women in Iran.  Why? Because people like Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami believes that “if women attend games (both in stadiums and screenings) there could be no guarantees that hijab or chastity would be properly observed or respected.”

World Cup games cannot be screened in cinemas, restaurants and coffee shops to audiences that include women. Some Iranian women have openly defied these laws by viewing the games at restaurants and coffee shops which have led to police crackdowns resulting in forcing the establishments to not screen the games.

Yes, it’s “only” a game and no one is physically hurt. But it is another symbol of repression by the regime in Tehran just as separate rest rooms and restaurants were for African Americans in the US and in any other country that practices or practiced racism. And in this case, it’s even more symbolic since Iran’s national team was actually playing in the world cup!

Iranian authorities have cracked down on fans, going so far as to arrest people who appear in a video intended to support the footballers. Why? Once again, the fear of seeing women hijab-free.

 

The Hijab as a weapon

The issue of Hijabs and women’s clothing is creating quite a stir in Tehran over the past few months: hardliners are exasperated by grass-roots movements such as “my stealthy freedom“, a facebook fan page showing pictures of hijab-free women and the “Happy in Tehran“, a lip-sync video of Pharrell’s hit including hijab-free women. The hijab is the main focal point of the discussion on women’s clothing but just last week, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was summoned to parliament to answer questions about why more measures have not been taken to prevent women from wearing leggings in public.

The BBC reported that “There was a loud reaction from MPs as photos of what was dubbed “transgressive legwear” were shown on large screens during the parliamentary session”. It’s as if the Iranian parliament has nothing better to do than to discuss whether leggings are really pants or not.

In this context, it is easy to understand that the hijab is really a weapon used by the regime to repress women in Iran since the beginning of the Islamic revolution. So, why the fuss now? The answer can be found in President Rouhani’s efforts to question the essence of some religious and social laws including the hijab itself as is evident in his latest tweet in which he stated that “poverty is a greater threat to chastity than violating the hijab norms“. Hardliners in Tehran obviously don’t appreciate Rouhani’s open-mindedness and are fighting back. We can only hope that one day the hijab will become a symbol of achieved freedom by remaining in a drawer at home.

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Iran, Iraq and…the US?

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The situation in Iraq is escalating at a tremendous pace and already is being deemed as “the next Syria“. Iran was, and remains, heavily invested in Syria (financially, diplomatically and militarily) and is most likely to be a key player in Iraq as well.

 

Iraq Spiraling Out Of control

ISIS, a Jihadist group so extreme that AL Qaeda denounced it, is steadily making its way to Baghdad, after taking control over 2 Iraq cities (Tikrit and Mosul) as well as some oil fields and other parts of Iraq. In Baghdad, the locals are, once again, stocking up on fuel, weapons and food.

Iran has voiced its support for the Iraqi government – Rouhani himself stated that Iran “will not allow supporters of terrorists to destabilize Iraq” – while at the same time blaming everybody “foreign powers” and the West as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the situation. On the other hand, Khamenei is against US involvement in Iraq.

In the meantime, Iran, wanting to protect its interests in Iraq, sent IRGC troops, since, unlike Syria, it doesn’t have Hezbollah to operate on its behalf. As a matter of fact, a top Iraqi official was quoted thatQassem Suleimani, the head of Al Qods, the foreign arm of the IRGC, is de facto “in charge” of Iraq.

Until

Early Monday, US Secretary of state John Kerry Arrived at Baghdad to meet with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. The contents of their meeting are not clear.

 

Iraq and the Nuclear Deal

What level of cooperation, if any, can be expected between the US and Iran? Kerry told the media that the Obama administration is open to work together with Iran, but later spoke differently saying that there can be cooperation on information and knowledge basis. Other voices from the Obama administration sang another tune altogether, with the pentagon declining any military option. Obviously, any form of cooperation between the US and Iran will affect the outcome of the nuclear deal.

July 20th marks the deadline for the Iran nuclear talks and the Iranians have hinted that they are open to a connection between a possible cooperation with the US in Iraq and the nuclear deal.  Experts are highly skeptical that a deal can be reached by the deadline and, as usual, nobody is really sure how Iran is going to play its hand this time. So we’ll just have to wait it up and see, day by day, how this crisis evolves.

 

One Year of Rouhani – Still No Reason To Smile Over Human Rights

 

One year since Rouhani was elected and human rights have gone from bad to worse despite his promises for change. Rouhnai promised to bring back smiles to his people but in the mean time, the only people who are smiling are politicians.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhXbeLL7ack

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Simply Taqiyya or are Zarif and Rouhani for Real?

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Is Rouhani’s moderate foreign policy for real or is it a ploy to gain time? If it is a ploy, he is backed by an age old policy of “Taqiyya” which allows Shi’a muslims to lie and deceive in order to protect the faith.

In any case, the answer to that question will come to light some time in 2015.

 

Iran Pushing for a South vs. West Strategy

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What Does Iran really want?

Regardless where you live, your religion or whether you’re leaning towards a Western point of view or the Iranian one, the answer to that question holds the key to understanding a conflict that has been brewing for the past 3 decades and seems on the brink of breaking out.

 

Demonizing the West

The problem is that it is hard to pinpoint who speaks for what in Iran. Legally and traditionally, it is the wish and word of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Electorally, President Hassan Rouhani and his ministers, namely his foreign minister Javad Zarif speak for the current government. Practically, you have the silent rule of the IRGC. And then, there are the endless members of parliament and law makers, generals and commanders, mullahs and activists who hold different visions.

Khamenei has given his support to Rouhani but his animosity towards the West is always evident: In a speech this month, he accused  the West is spreading fear of Islam and fostering sectarian conflict as part of a conspiracy to suppress the Muslim world. Khamenei, who more than anyone understands how to foster conflicts, summed it up by calling for the  “Jihad to continue until America is no more

 

Rallying the South

Another peek into the Iranian mindset was given by Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was recently quoted as saying that “In today’s world, there is a growing need for cooperation among the South countries“.

Zarif’s “South countries” probably refer to the 120 strong members of the “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM) that include all of the African states as well as most of the Asian and South American states. And since Rouhani is the secretary general of NAM until August 2015, the stage for pitting “South” against “West” is optimally set.

It’s no surprise then that NAM is supportive of Iran in its efforts to ink a nuclear deal: “The choices and decisions of all countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, concerning the peaceful application of nuclear energy and fuel cycle policies must be respected

 

Divide and Conquer

Iran portrays itself as the country that will free the world of the West’s power. The easiest way to do so is to sow the seeds of discontent against the West (specifically the US) in the hope of rallying enough support for Khamenei’s vision of a benevolent “century of Islam” as opposed to the “evil hegemony of the West”.

The fact that this cry to battle emanates from a regime which is constantly embroiled in conflicts in the area (Syria, Kuwait, Pakistan, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia etc…) should make the “Southern” countries suspiciousof Tehran’s motives.

What is Iran Hiding in Parchin?

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ISIS report – May 12th 2014

“Digital Globe imagery dated April 25, 2014, shows renewed signs of external activity at the Parchin military site where Iran is alleged to have conducted work related to nuclear weapons development. Parchin represents a key outstanding issue to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in resolving its concerns about Iran’s past and possibly on-going nuclear weapons work and military fuel cycle activities. Before the Parchin issue can be resolved satisfactorily, Iran will need to allow the IAEA to visit the site, provide information and access to officials linked to activities at the site, and possibly permit visits to other sites. In sum, Iran will need to provide far more cooperation on this issue than it has done so far. If it does not, it risks not achieving a final deal with the P5+1 or not receiving further sanctions relief as part of an extended interim deal. ”

IAEA Report – June 4th 2014

“The Agency continues to seek answers from Iran to the detailed questions provided to Iran regarding Parchin and the foreign expert and to request access to a particular location at the Parchin site. Since the Agency’s first request for access, extensive activities have taken place at this location that will have seriously undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.Since the Director General’s previous report, the Agency has observed through satellite imagery, building materials, debris and earth deposits, as well as ongoing construction activities that appear to show the removal/replacement or refurbishment of the external wall structures of the site’s two main buildings.”